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Tallinn is the capital of Estonia in Northern Europe, a coastal city is known for its ridiculously photogenic UNESCO old town, historic architecture and innovative society. Visit Tallinn with our one day Tallinn itinerary and guide to see the highlights of of the city and enjoy the charming medieval atmosphere and vibrant modern culture.
The peak season in Tallinn is during the summer months of June to August, when the weather is warmer and the days are longer, with the sun rising at 5am and not setting until 10pm. The city is busier during these peak months, pushing up the cost of flights and hotels.
Consider booking your one day in Tallinn in May or September when there will be fewer crowds and prices will be cheaper, but you’ll still have good weather in which to enjoy the city. Keep in mind that the weather in Estonia in the summer isn’t pleasingly warm all the time, it can be unpredictable and there will be some days when it’s windy or even cold.
Traveling in Estonia during winter time, you’ll find the weather is typical for Northern Europe. It will be a lot colder and the days will be much shorter, and there may well be snow. The main sights are still open, but you’ll have less daytime in which to visit them.
Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport is close to the city and it’s connected well to larger European airports such as London, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.
It’s also possible to take a day cruise to Tallinn from Helsinki in Finland, a ferry ride across the Gulf of Finland of around 2-3 hours. You can search and book with our recommended ferry provider in Europe here.
- Transfer – the quickest and most convenient option, you can book in advance with Intui Travel.
- Taxi – grab a cab which will cost between €10 to €15 and take about 10 minutes. Make sure to use only authorised taxi companies using the rank outside the airport.
- Tram – Tallinna Linnatranspordi AS operate Tram Line 4 (Lennujaam-Tondi) leaves every ten minutes or so, for the 15 minute journey into the city. A one way ticket costs €2.
- Bus – Tallinna Linnatranspordi AS also operate bus number 2 which runs between Tallinn Airport and the port of Tallinn, going in the direction of Reisisadam. To go downtown, get off at bus stop A. Laikmaa, from here it’s a short walk to the centre of Tallinn. The bus leaves every 20 minutes and travel time is around 15 minutes. A one way ticket costs €2.
For a luxurious stay in the heart of Tallinn Old Town, book Hotel Telegraaf. It’s in the perfect location, where there are various sights, bars, restaurants, clubs, and other attractions close by. It’s a five-star hotel in a historical building with a spa, exclusive à la carte restaurant and is one of the city’s best rated hotels, perfect for your Tallinn visit.
Swissotel Tallinn is another luxurious hotel in the center of Tallinn. It’s in the highest building of Estonia, where there are fantastic views of the old town, the surrounding city, and the nearby sea. Swissotel is a big hotel with a variety of rooms with a gym and spa, ideal for relaxing after a busy day in Tallinn.
See & Do
Seeing Tallinn in a day is easily manageable, thanks to the compact and walkable nature of much of the city. If you want to save your legs and move faster to get in more Tallinn attractions, then public transport is also pretty smooth and great value for money.
If you’d like to have your some of your day in Tallinn organised for you, then join one of Traveller’s free walking tours, where a local guide will share Tallinn’s history, insider tips and show you the best things to see in Tallinn.
Start in the Old Town
The cobblestoned Old Town of Tallinn, full of twisting alleys and historic architecture has been around for over 5,000 years and is one of the oldest cities in Northern Europe. It’s also one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe, full of medieval churches and buildings that will take your breath away. It’s no surprise that its a UNESCO World Heritage site and the top must see in Tallinn.
Visit Freedom Square
Freedom Square is a great place to start exploring the Old Town. There you can see the correlation between the modern city and the medieval part of Tallinn. The square also plays an important role in Estonia’s story. There is a War of Independence Victory Monument and from there you can read about Estonian history.
TOP TIP: Climb up to the Harjumäe Hill, right behind the monument. From there you have fantastic views of Freedom Square and the tallest buildings in Tallinn.
Explore Soviet History
Estonia was granted independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and the buildings and key places from that time in the country’s history have been gradually transformed into tourist attractions. You can visit the KGB Museum on the 23rd floor of the Hotel Viru to see the former headquarters of the KGB, and north of here, the KGB Prison Cells Museum displays the written and recorded testimonials of the interrogated.
Admire Town Hall Square (Raekoja plats)
Town Hall Square (sometimes called the “square of five spires”) has been a market place and the centre of Hanseatic Tallinn since the Middle Ages. It became the centre of the Lower Town at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries and nowadays its the starting point to go anywhere in the magical, medieval Old Town.
Around the town square are several colourful buildings including the Gothic Tallinn Town Hall, and 15th century Tallinn Town Hall Pharmacy, which is Europe’s oldest continuously running pharmacy, where you can still buy medicines today.
If you’re feeling agile, find the circular stone marked with a compass rose in the centre of the square, stretch back and look up to see the magnificent sight of the tops of five of the Old Town’s church spires – not many people can actually see all five spires, four is a much more common sight, unless you’re really, really tall. Look out for the hole that’s been cut in a nearby house roof to enable the fifth spire to be seen! If you want to do a sort of reverse viewing, head for St Olav’s (sometimes St Olaf’s) church and climb the 124m to what was once Europe’s tallest spire – you’ll be able to see many more than five spires from the top!
Town Hall Square is the social hub of the city and hosts open air concerts, fairs and markets, and is packed with restaurants and pubs. It’s one of the the most popular Tallinn tourist attractions.
TOP TIP: When considering visiting Tallinn during the wintertime, this is the main place to visit. There is one of the most charming Christmas markets in Europe held here, with a traditional Christmas tree that has been erected in the square annually since 1441.
Visit Toompea Castle
From the Old Town, take Pikk Jalg, or Long Leg, a steep cobbled path, to the Upper Town and Toompea Hill, which sits 20-30m higher than the rest of the city. You’ll pass the Kiek in de Kok tower on the way, a restored cannon tower from the 15th century which now houses a museum and gives tours of secret tunnels.
The jewel in Tallinn’s crown, Toompea Castle, is perched on a limestone cliff at the southwestern corner of the hill and towers over the rest of the city. The castle has always been the seat of power in Estonia and ever since the German Knights of the Sword first built a stone fortress here in 1227, every foreign empire that ruled Estonia has used the castle as their base. Today, it’s home to Riigikogu, Estonia’s Parliament.
The castle has been renovated many times over the years, but still retains the basic shape it was given in the 13th and 14th centuries. From the front, visitors can see the distinctive pink Baroque palace, an addition dating from the 18th century and the time of Catherine the Great. For a more castle-like view of this building, head behind it, down the opposite side of the hill – from here you get the medieval perspective.
From the Governor’s Garden at the castle’s southern edge, the 46m Pikk Hermann tower can be seen. The tower is an important national symbol and tradition dictates that whichever nation flies its flag over Pikk Hermann also rules Estonia.
Be Wowed by Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Standing in front of Toompea Castle, and one of the best places to visit in Tallinn, is the spectacular Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
Built in the Russian Revival style at the end of the 19th century, when Estonia was still part of the Czarist Empire, the much photographed Russian Orthodox church has the distinctive onion domes, so typical of Russian buildings. For a time, after Estonia gained its freedom, there was discussion of destroying the cathedral, a symbol of Russia’s occupation. Inside, you will find it richly decorated with icons and mosaics lining the walls, and in the towers, an enormous and powerful church bell that weighs 15 tonnes!
Stroll the City Walls
Visit the ancient city walls where you can walk the section connecting Nunna, Sauna and Kuldjala towers, three of the remaining 46 watch towers that surround the Old Town of Tallinn. A huge project was started in the 14th century to build a fortified wall around the entire city, to protect Tallinn and its occupants from invaders. By the 16th century, the 4km long city wall had been built to 16m high and was 3m to 4m wide, making Tallinn the most fortified city in the entire world.
These three towers are special today because they are among the few that are still open to the general public and one of the best free things to do in Tallinn. Tourists can come and walk through these historic towers, following the paths that connect them.
Capture Panoramic Photos from Old Town Viewpoints
If you’ve ever wondered how people capture wonderful elevated shots of the city, it’s because of the viewing platforms, and two of the main viewpoints over the Old Town are close to each other on Toompea Hill.
The first is the Kohtuotsa viewing platform (Kohtu 12). From there you have panoramic views to the one side of the Old Town with a backdrop of the tallest buildings of Tallinn.
The other, slightly further from the Old Town, is the Patkuli viewing platform (Rahukohtu) with views to the other side of the Old Town and the sea.
Visit the Kalamaja District
After the Old Town tour, set your sights on the Kalamaja (meaning fish house) district, which historically served as the city’s main harbour before evolving into a manufacturing hub during the occupation.
Today, it is undergoing gentrification, with much of the Soviet industrial buildings being converted into restaurants, galleries and shops, and it is now one of the most dynamic and interesting neighbourhoods in the Estonian capital.
It needs a bit of walking, especially if you want to explore the street art around the district, so it would be a perfect place to get to and explore on electric scooters or bikes.
Wander Around Telliskivi Creative City
The Telliskivi Creative City (Telliskivi Loomelinnak), a complex of disused factories that now houses more than 200 independent businesses, isn’t that fancy nor well-renovated, but it has maintained a unique vibe.
It’s also a popular place for different events (over 500 cultural events a year) and indie shops with Estonian design and art. Thanks to the creative atmosphere it’s also home to a couple start-up companies offering products you won’t find anywhere else.
Explore Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour
Seaplane Harbour got its name from its vast hangar, which was constructed for seaplanes back in the Russian days. Inside, there is now a sea museum which claims to be the largest maritime museum in Europe, which includes a harbour with ships, submarines, cannons, sea mines and a one hundred year old steam powered ice breaker.
Even if architecture is not your thing, you will still appreciate the design of the hangar which was the first dome of its size built with a thin concrete shell and without supporting columns.
Chill at Noblessner
Port Noblessner was an old industrial area and submarine shipyard, which has recently been renovated. Now it’s a beautiful area with apartments, cafes, restaurants and parks. Overall it’s a quiet neighbourhood, where you can escape from the city noise, walk with your friends or watch the sunset.
TOP TIP: If you are a big fan of craft beer, then Estonia’s most famous craft brewery, Põhjala Brewery, is here. The taproom has an excellent selection of brews which you can enjoy with live music, or take your beer to the balcony as the sun sets. You need to book in advance to have a tour around the brewery.
Admire the Sea Views from the Top of Linnahall
Tallinn City Hall (Tallinna Linnahall) is located next to the sea. It was constructed in 1980 for the Summer Olympics when Estonia was part of the Soviet Union, to host the sailing competition. After the Olympics, the unique building has been host over the years to many big concerts and events.
Since 2010 it has been abandoned without any use being found for the massive building. Visitors can still walk up to the top of the building, where there are views of the Gulf of Finland and also to some parts of Tallinn.
After a long day of walking it’s time to cool down a bit and enjoy the local culture, cuisine, and nightlife.
Taste Craft Beer in St. Vitus
Take a Tallinn Sunset Cruise
Take a floating boat tour on the old cruiser “Katharina”, one of the best way to admire the wonderful panorama of the Old Town of Tallinn and its towers. Learn about Tallinn’s maritime history, admire the historic shoreline and visit the bridge on this highly rated dinner cruise.
Explore the Tallinn Nightlife
Tallinn’s old town is a hub of pubs and nightclubs, with the highest traffic during the night around Suur-Karja street, where there are several pubs, and clubs. There is also the most popular nightclub in Tallinn – Club Hollywood. Another great nightclub is Studio. Parties last ’till the early morning.
Tallin’s top-rated restaurant according to Tripadvisor, Rataskaevu 16 serves delicious Estonian food in a cosy wooden and exposed brick dining room in the Old Town.
The menu is influenced by both traditional Estonian ingredients and dishes, as well as modern European dining. Service is warm and friendly and there are some interesting vegetarian options.
For a special occasion meal, the Michelin starred Restaurant Ö is the place to go. Serving inventive dishes using traditional and seasonal Estonian ingredients and taking influence from Nordic nature, you’ll enjoy elegant food with big flavours.
TOP TIP: Book this one in advance, you won’t get a table on the day.
Top Five Tallinn Travel Tips
- Wear comfortable shoes when Tallinn sightseeing. To visit Tallinn in one day means lots of walking, including cobbled streets, hills and steps.
- The language of the country is Estonian, and many citizens also speak English. Even though Estonia was under the Soviet Union regime, people still prefer English over Russian, especially the younger generation. A few basic phrases and words in Estonian will go a long way. The most common words are tere (hello) and aitäh (thank you). It’s the quickest way to cold-blooded non-emotional Estonian hearts.
- You can never be sure with Estonian weather, it can turn pretty bad quickly! Also, it might get windy on the seaside. So just in case, it’s better to have a waterproof jacket in your bag and dress in layers.
- Try renting an electric scooter. It’s a popular and fun way to move around in Tallinn. You will find e-scooters available to hire through apps like Bolt or Tuul.
- Consider a Ühiskaart, or Smartcard. The one day card costs €4.50 and can be used on buses, trolleys and trams, including public transport from the airport. You can purchase a physical card at stations and kiosks in the city, or buy a virtual one online.
Do you have just a little longer to spend in Tallinn?
That was a quick Tallinn one day itinerary. If you have more time then visit places in Tallinn that are a bit out of the centrum area, or take a day trip to explore the beauty of Estonian nature.
Viru Bog – Bogs are important in Estonian folklore, and they are seen as places of of mystery and peace. Bogs cover a fifth of the mainland area in Estonia, and some of them are over 10,000 years old. The most popular bog is Viru in the Lahemaa National Park. It’s about 50km from Tallinn, but there isn’t a good public transportation connection, so I recommend renting a car or taking a day trip. There are marked wooden trails to see different small lakes, waterfalls, unique landscapes, and a viewing point for panoramic vistas.
Rummu Quarry – Take a day trip and explore the old limestone quarry and abandoned prison, which are about 45km away from Tallinn. It has recently been reopened as a leisure attraction. There you can canoe on the lake, paddle on SUP boards, or snorkel and dive.
Võsu – Enjoy a chill beach day in Võsu, a seaside village 80km away from Tallinn with some public transportation options, but again it’s better to rent a car. During the summertime, there are several events and festivals. It’s also, a great place to have a lazy and quiet beach day.
Pirita Promenade – Walk along with the sea and watch the sunset at Pirita Promenade, twenty minutes outside the city by public transport. There is a long promenade along the sea with stunning views of the city skyline. It’s also the best place to watch a sunset in Tallinn.
Kadriorg Park – Have a break from the city in Kadriorg Park, where you’ll find the beautiful Petrine Baroque Kadriorg Palace, built for Catherine I of Russia by Peter the Great, now home to the Kadriorg Art Museum, dedicated to early European and Russian art. A short five minute walk through the beautiful park brings you to the Kumu Art Museum, which showcases some of the best works by Estonian artists, with Socialist Realism paintings displayed alongside more modern and contemporary pieces.
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